Cisco's Big Blade Splash: Ripples Go Far and Wide

Today, Cisco ended the suspense and launched its entry into the data center blade computing market, with the announcement of the Unified Computing System (UCS). Ok, there was really very little suspense, since this had been leaking out in various circles for months. But what was surprising was the breadth and depth of the Cisco launch. Cisco never enters a new market in a small way, and this was no exception. They lined up support from big players across the board – EMC, Microsoft, VMware, Accenture, Intel, Oracle, SAP, and most importantly (from a management perspective, which is my favorite drum to beat) with BMC. I see two key implications in this announcement when it comes to the networking market. First, this sets a new high-water mark for integrating networking technologies more tightly into computing and storage architectures – something only Cisco is in a position to pull off – that may represent a true 2nd generation of convergence (first gen was voice/data networking). Secondly, this aggressive move into computing raises the likelihood that existing blade providers, most notably HP and IBM, will seek to find and energize alternatives to Cisco. HP has a good option with their ProCurve products, but IBM does not have an immediate answer. In the end, it will force competitive innovation in networking technologies, which is good for everyone…. And don’t think for a minute that this is any sort of diversion, and that Cisco is taking their “eye off the ball” from networking – they are merely pushing forward in a direction that they believe they must in order to survive the constant forces of commoditization in the networking industry. By expanding into voice and video, they diversified and moved up the stack. By adding computing to their data center solutions, they accomplish the same. Routing and switching are slow growth markets for them – blade computing is whole new frontier. Even with this move, Cisco will not be providing “all things data center”, however they certainly will provide another key piece to complement their strength in data center networking and network security. And most enterprises would never single source all parts of their data center anyways. What this does represent is a compelling new set of technology options that will certainly change the landscape of both data center computing and networking. Stay tuned - I'll be posting more on the management specifics behind this launch shortly....

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